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Breast Cancer: Importance Of Early Detection

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has encouraged more women to embrace breast cancer awareness by getting screened frequently to avoid late detection which in most cases reduce the chances of successful treatment.

Breast cancer is by far the most common cancer in women worldwide.

According to WHO, there are about 1.38 million new cases and 458 000 deaths from breast cancer each year.

“It is important to check for the signs and symptoms of breast cancer. Symptoms may include- presence of lump in the breast, pain in the breast, swelling in areas near the breasts, discharge from nipple other than breast milk, change in the shape of the nipple and swelling under arm. In some cases, these may not be the sign of breast cancer but any of these signs should be reported to the doctor immediately,” said WHO in a statement.

The international health body has identified two major components of early detection of cancer which are education to promote early diagnosis and screening.

“Recognizing possible warning signs of cancer and taking prompt action leads to early diagnosis,” it said.

It also said increased awareness of possible warning signs of cancer, among physicians, nurses and other health care providers as well as among the general public, can have a great impact on the disease.

Some early signs of cancer include lumps, sores that fail to heal, abnormal bleeding, persistent indigestion, and chronic hoarseness. Early diagnosis is particularly relevant for cancers of the breast, cervix, mouth, larynx, colon and rectum, and skin.

WHO has defined screening as use of simple tests across a healthy population in order to identify individuals who have disease, but do not yet have symptoms.

Examples include breast cancer screening using mammography and cervical cancer screening using cytology screening methods, including Pap smears.

Based on the existing evidence, mass population screening can be advocated for breast and cervical cancer, using mammography screening and cytology screening, in countries where resources are available for wide coverage of the population.

But for countries such as Zimbabwe were healthcare systems are in dire state, it has proven difficult for government to conduct mass screening particularly in impoverished remote areas of the country.

Several ongoing studies are currently evaluating low cost approaches to screening that can be implemented and sustained in low-resource settings.

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